Luis Gutierrez is currently a junior studying English at Florida International University. He loves to watch movies, listen to old music, and play beach volleyball with his friends. He also enjoys writing and collecting vinyl records.
Westchester is home to both an urban and natural landscape that can be seen easily throughout the neighborhood. It has the right combination of parks and busy roads to balance the background that many people reside in.
It contains many schools such as Christopher Columbus High School and St. Brendan Highschool that contribute to the urban feel of the neighborhood due to the large number of buildings each of their campuses have. Close by these schools or other large buildings, there are small parks or large patches of grass that add on to the natural landscape.
Westchester has an interesting history that dates all the way back to 1862. There was a Homestead Act of 1862 that indicated that the land of Westchester couldn’t be lived upon. This was mainly due to the large amount of rain and flooding that the location bared. Thankfully, around the 1920’s, the construction of canals led the water elsewhere and the land in the area was now dry. Then, for 30 years, the land sat there waiting for some form of development to occur. In 1955, a place called Westchester appears on the map after WWII. Afterwards, the neighborhood skyrocketed in the development of businesses and community life. This area then attracted many Jewish families and so a man by the name of Rabbi Samuel April led the construction of the Temple Or Olom in the 1960’s. Along with the Jewish culture, Catholics and Hispanics jumped on the idea of a nice place called Westchester. With all of these culutres and businesses, Westchester began to thrive.
This neighborhood has a melting pot of characteristics for its residents. The population is around 56,000 people and of that number, 93% of them are White. 90% of the population are Hispanic or Latino and 65% of all residents are foreign born. This means that only 35% of the people that live in Westchester were born here! Most of the residents, 54%, are under 65 years old but older than 18 years. The median household income is around $55,000 but the percentage of residents in poverty is 14.6%. All of this information is taken from the U.S Economic Census data from 2019.
Portrait of Westchester Resident:
Name: Guerline Camille
- How long have you lived in Westchester?
-“I have lived here my entire life which is 24 years. I have lived in the same house that entire time. My parents moved into that house a week before I was born.
2. What do you like most about your neighborhood?
-I like how welcoming it is; every restaurant or store that I visit, everyone is very warm. I enjoy the diversity in age. There is a large elderly population but there is also a lot of young adults I can relate to. I like how everything is accessible and close together such as retail and food options. I also like the community that is here. For example, every Friday night in the tropical park parking lot, there is a food truck event that brings together residents to enjoy great food.
3. If you were to change anything about your neighborhood, what would it be?
– I don’t think there would be anything I would change. I love this neighborhood and I plan to live here all my life.
Coral Park Baptist Church:
The Coral Park Baptist Church located on 16th Street is easy to spot due to its interesting design. This church was the first Baptist church to be constructed in Westchester and it was done due to the expanding Jewish culture that came in the 50’s. This church is known for its appearance that it gained the nickname “the whale church”.
Statue of Antonino Diaz Pou:
This statue located in the Miami Dade Public Library commemorates Antonino Diaz Pou who infiltrated Cuba to sabotage their operations and librate Cuba from Castro’s communism. Unfortunately, he was captured and sentenced to death by a firing squad. This statue being in Westchester and Miami is very important because it conveys the terror that many Miami residents ran from.
St Brendan Catholic Church:
St. Brendan Catholic Church is located on 32nd street next to Christopher Columbus Highschool. This church was founded in 1954 and it slowly added an elementary school that same year. In 1980, a new church was built to recognize Archbishop of Miami Edward McCarthy. It is a fantastic church made of inlaid red cedar and Mexican onyx with the inclusion of a 50ft cross made ouf aluminum.
Banyan Park is located on 32nd Terrace across from Christopher Columbus High School. It is part of Banyan Elementary School but is free to the public for use. This park contains many trees that surround a large plot of grass which is great for any kind of sports or outdoor activity. When I went to Columbus back in 2019, I would hang out at Banyan Park after school with my friends since it was just across the street. Also, Columbus students typically have practices and intermural tournaments for some of their sports such as flag football and lacrosse. Along with a massive plot of grass, there is a small playground that is available for children to play with.
Coral Estates Park:
Coral Estates Park is located on 97th Avenue across from Coral Park Elementary School. This park usually contains many small children because of the elementary school being so close by. It is a relitevely small park that has even smaller parking availability. If you manage to park your car, you will be able to see tennis courts, basketball courts, and a playgroud.
Rockway Park is located on 27th Dr and is surrounded by residential homes. This Park is a great small park that is easily accessible to everyone, especially those who live across the street from it. It includes several activities such as swimming pools, basketball courts, and a playground. Towards the back of the park, it opens to reveal a large plot of grass that is great for picnics and other outdoor activities.
The Bee-Line Bus is a form of transportation that is exclusive to Westchester County. Studies show that over 65% of residents in Westchester are walking distance to the route the bus takes. It serves over 27 million passengers a year and assists these people in taking them where they need to go such as their workplace or place of residency. To ride on the bus, each fare is $2.75 unless you buy the unlimited Metro Card which is $33.00 for 7 days or $127.00 for 30 days.
Photo creds: Miami Dade Transit
Miami Dade Transit:
The Miami Dade Transit contains a Metrobus that has a route that passes by Westchester. This Metrobus is known as the 82 Westchester Circulator which contains stops by Florida International University’s Modesto Maidique Campus and by Tropical Park. The bus also contains free WIFI for any technological needs. The fare for the bus is $2.25 for a regular trip.
Arbetter’s Hot Dogs:
Arbetter’s is located along 40th St and clearly sticks out in the street corner that it lays in. It is a great small restaurant that sells all kinds of hotdogs. From chili dogs to cheese dogs, this hotdog establishment is a great place to swing by and get a cheap, quality hotdog. In the restaurant, they have memorabilia of sports teams and pictures of celebrities that have visited covering the place from floor to ceiling. They also have a sign that says “Free Boston baked beans the day after the Red Sox win the World Series” and believe me, they hold up to their word. Another fun fact is that when you go to get a refill, you must tell the employee that you love Larry Bird or else each refill costs 25 cents.
Frank’s Pizza is located on Bird Road and is easy to find since it has a big light up sign outside of it. This pizzeria is known to be the oldest one in Miami due to its opening dating all the way back to 1955. They have stayed at that location for more than 60 years and their food backs up why they haven’t closed shop after that many years. They serve pizza made from a homemade tomato sauce and other natural ingredients. It is an icon of a restaurant that celebrates everything that there is to love about pizza.
La Carreta is located on Bird Road and is usually accompanied with a large group of Cubans on the side of it. The first one was founded in Little Havana on Calle Ocho in 1976 but after the political take over, La Carreta needed to find a new home. This new home was the melting pot of Miami and it continues to thrive on its Hispanic food attracting natives and nonnatives alike. There they serve famous and original Cuban food that is hearty and authentic. The restaurant serves as a beacon not only for Cubans but also those who wish to dive into this fabulous culture.
Bird Bowl is located on Bird Road and can be spotted by finding the 20ft bowling pins that reside outside the doors. Established in 1956, Bird Bowl is home to sixty lanes for bowling, pool tables, and an arcade. It is known for hosting bowling tournaments, pool tournaments, and birthday parties. It is a hotspot to hang out and bowl with your buddies or just have a good time.
Martha of Miami:
Martha of Miami is located on Bird Road and can be found by looking next to the shop that has a large PAWN sign above it. It is a small shop that sells Cuban themed merchandise. This merchandise includes hats, shirts, pants, masks, and home décor. All of her collections have some sort of Cuban culture attached to it such as an inside joke, the Cuban flag, or a play on a Spanish and English word combined. It is a nifty little shop that welcomes you with open arms and a Cafecito (small Cuban coffee).
Yesterday and Today Records:
Yesterday and Today Records is located on Bird Road on the second floor of a small shopping center. This place is a hotspot for lovers of music and the vintage aesthetic. It houses hundreds of vinyl records and cassettes that range from music from the 50’s all the way to the present day. Any person that enjoys music will find something they love here and it is even easier to find since it is sorted in alphabetical order by the artist/band name.
Westchester is a constantly changing yet authentic neighborhood that really captures what is means to be a resident of Miami. It combines many cultures together through its restaurants, businesses, and community hotspots. If anyone were to get a taste of what Miami is, I would highly recommend them to check out the beautiful neighborhood of Westchester.